I had a short note back from the American professor who calls himself Skeptic. He says: “I’m intrigued by one of your headings, ‘God’s revelation of himself in nature.’ I happen to be a biology professor and all I see is ‘nature red in tooth and claw.’ Everything I see can be explained naturalistically. There is no need to invoke a God of the gaps. Everything arises naturally from nature. As for faith, surely that is believing things without evidence. And as for intuition, that is even a sillier idea. If we can’t believe the sensible data in front of us, we are lost. I have never had much time for armchair philosophers. There is no substitute for fieldwork. Go out and look young man.”

Sweet pea
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Dear Skeptic,

Thank you for responding to my last blog and thank you for regarding me as a ‘young man.’ I only wish! But whether one is old or young is immaterial. What matters, surely, is if one’s assessment of what philosophers call ‘reality’ is true to our human reality or not. Your reference to the importance of‘sensible data’ and that everything can be explained ‘naturalistically’ gives me a very important handle on your worldview. It appears to me to be very near the empirical views of David Hume, the 18th century philosopher who, despite being ‘armchair’, is still the darling of the sceptics. Empiricists like Hume believed that all our knowledge derives from our sensible impressions and that causal relations are in the mind. An extreme empiricism of this kind is self-defeating because it leads to mind-numbing scepticism. Fortunately, Kant, who was at least as great a philosopher as Hume, (in my humble opinion much greater) disagreed with Hume and showed, I think, that the empiricists were wrong.

wild hyacinth_Vatersay
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The aspects again
My apologies if I have mistaken your worldview. You advise me to do fieldwork. I have a great admiration for those who do, but no-one could do fieldwork without intuition. For me, it’s part of what Dooyeweerd calls ‘naive’ or ordinary experience. We are all born into this reality of the the 15 aspects. To remind you they are: Pistical (15) faith, certitude, surrender; Ethical (14) love (in ethical relationships); Juridical (13) lawfulness, justice; Aesthetic (12) beauty, harmony; Economic (11) frugality, moderation; Social (10) social intercourse; Lingual (9) symbolic signification, language; Historical/Formative (8) formative power, culture; Logical-analytical (7) distinguishing, identifying difference; Sensitive (6) feeling, affect, emotion; Biotic (5) organic life, vitality, Physical (4) energy, force, change, dynamics, Kinematic (3) mobility, mechanical motion, Spatial (2) continuous extension, Numerical (1) number, discrete quantity (based on Troost, 2012, p.77)

God in his primordial act of Creation created all aspects as a unity in diversity, just as a beam of white light will enter a prism and be released as different colours. I suspect that you give priority or even exclusiveness to one or two aspects such as the Physical and the Biotic. As a faith person, I want to grasp and come to grips with all aspects, not just one or two.

The intuition of wholeness
Anyway, I want to get back to intuition and to explaining how intuition tells me there is a God. We are given intuition in ‘naive experience.’ One of the strongest intuitions is the intuition of wholeness. As a biologist I’m sure you marvel at the whole-forming ability of the physical organism. The nature of the human mind is such that we are constantly creating wholeness and indeed crying out for wholeness. We see the artist framing her painting which she feels is a whole because of the way the elements fit together, the colour tones and so on. The poet integrates image, sound and sense to make an integrated whole. The physicist wants a theory that unites various observations. The theologian and philosopher want a system that will unite all observations. In other words, in every heart there is the desire for the absolute. I believe this intuition, this instinct has been placed there by the Creator.


The intuition of integration
Part of this human intuiting faculty is the ability to take in a thousand facets or facts about reality and to integrate them in a unity. This is the vision that Dooyeweerd has. The unity of the aspects happens in the selfhood, or what the Bible calls the heart. Everyone is born with this naive experience of unity. (This is the opposite of Hume’s view of the self, at least his initial view. When he looked for the self he could find only a series of impressions). For me, this amazing unity in diversity points with absolute certainty to a unifier, a Creator.

The intuition of the sacred or holy
These intuitions of wholeness and integration are very much tied to the intuition of the holy. One feels this as an intuition in its own right. It’s the mere creature in opposition to the Creator of all that exists. The creation points to the Creator but the gulf is felt to be immense. Otto in his book The Idea of the Holy (1923) identifies this as a feeling of awe and dread. We are utterly dumbstruck before the reality of something which we cannot understand. But there is also something else. Because we are fallen from the image of God in us, we feel sinful and defiled before a Being who is absolutely perfect and absolutely righteous.
In future blogs I’ll cover the other two headings I mentioned earlier, namely, ‘God’s revelation of himself in history’ and the other heading, which you found strange, ‘God’s revelation of himself in nature.’
Maol Ìosa